Marwaan Macan-Markar has a useful account, at The Irrawaddy, of the position of red shirts on amnesty.
He argues that the “amnesty bill that Worachai Hema, a government lawmaker, has proposed to be taken up when a new parliamentary session…” is the most likely bill to be taken up. He adds that this amnesty bill is not just reviled by the anti-government agitators as a ruse by Thaksin Shinawatra to come home, but “has become a rallying cry for Thailand’s strongest and most enduring street protest movement—the Red Shirts.”
There are other red shirts who want a different bill, but that’s another story.
With the Yingluck Shinawatra government still partly reliant on the red shirts, at least when political push becomes angry shove and when elections come along, Marwaan says the red shirt “cry” is one that cannot be ignored. And, red shirts are likely to show up outside parliament to show support for the bill, risking clashes with the yellow shirts (or whatever color they choose this time).
Marwaan points out that
[t]he Red Shirts’ endorsement of the Worachai bill is rooted in the campaign for justice launched by the leading arm of this movement, the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), and other groups not linked to the UDD, dubbed by some here as the “Free Red Shirts.” The campaign emerged after the bloody crackdown that ended weeks of Red Shirts-led street protests on May 19th, 2010. Over 90 people were killed, of whom 82 were civilians, and more than 2,000 people sustained injuries in the wake of heavily armed troops driving off anti-government protesters from Ratchaprasong, the center of Bangkok’s glitzy shopping mall core.
One of the reasons the red shirts like the bill is because the “military’s role has not been spared…. [T]he Worachai proposal … seeks [a] pardon … only for all low-ranking members from across the country’s color-coded protest movement who are facing charges since the 2006 coup.”
When Thaksin, “on May 19th this year, … delivered a speech via Skype … to thousands of Red Shirt supporters who had packed the streets of Ratchaprasong to commemorate the third anniversary of the 2010 crackdown … publicly endorsed the Worachai bill, … [it] prompted wild cheers from the crowds.” This represented a 180-degree turn for Thaksin from the previous year. Marwaan observes:
Such a turn has brought into relief a view among political observers that neither the Yingluck administration nor Thaksin can take Red Shirt support for granted. And the Worachai bill, more than a lightning rod, emerges as an occasion of Red Shirts muscle flexing against their patron—a rare moment that has compelled Thaksin to concede ground.
That can only be a good development.
Update: Kind of related to this, PPT observes that there are two recent posts at the official Red Shirts blog that indicate recognition by diplomats of the red shirts/UDD. The first is about U.S. Embassy officials visiting the UDD and reportedly “praised the UDD organization for their commitment to the practice of transparency and other democratic principles within the organization.” The second has UDD President Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn attending “the anniversary of the National Day of the Swiss Confederation.” We are sure the yellow lot will be depressed and angered by this.